Quilters Take Manhattan, Special Events, WCQN

Speaking Engagement

Last Thursday (April 19, 2018) I was the featured speaker at our monthly Central Oregon SAQA (art quilting) group meeting.

What I Presented

I did a presentation (complete with “death by PowerPoint”…I did try to keep the PowerPoint slides as engaging as possible with primarily photos) on the Women of Color Quilting Network (WCQN) and the 2017 Quilters Take Manhattan (QTM) event I attended in NYC in September 2017.

I used these previous tierneycreates and Improvisational Textiles blog posts as the basis for my presentation:

I used some of the key text from these posts but also included more photos than were in the posts (I have a crazy amount of photos from QTM 2017!). For fun I also snuck in some family photos (I met up with my sister, brother and two awesome nephews) from the trip, especially some of my highly adorable 5 year old and now 14 year old nephews!

I also brought a copy of all the WCQN Exhibit books by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi in my personal collection for the attendees to look through while I spoke (so they would not fall asleep during my presentation):

  • And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversation
  • Threads of Faith: Recent Works from the Women of Color Quilters Network
  • Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama
  • Textural Rhythms: Quilting the Jazz Tradition
  • Quilting African American Women’s History

I also brought a copy of Sherri Lynn Woods’ book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously just in case there was any art quilter in our group that had not heard of this book.

Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH) attended the presentation also and helped me haul all those books to the speaking engagement.

No one appeared to fall asleep during my presentation and they actually appeared quite engaged (or faked it very well!)

The Venue

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know my obsession with my public library. What was cool (at least to me) was that my presentation was done in the Conference room of the Sisters Branch of the Deschutes Public Library. So I got to speak at the library (huge smile)!


Key to Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking: Be Delusional & Improvisational

One of my Central Oregon SAQA friends asked me before the presentation if I was nervous and I said “no”.

I am not sure if I should be nervous but I am never really nervous before a speaking engagement. I have this likely delusional belief, especially if I am speaking in front of a group that knows me, that they want me to succeed and are cheering me on (hopefully no one breaks my delusion!).

I used to do a lot of public speaking professionally when I was a trainer (before the days of telecommuting) at work and at professional conferences. If you’ve done corporate training, especially mandatory corporate training, you know about speaking to an audience that may not want to be there!

What broke me of any fear of public speaking (possibly creating my delusion that everyone is cheering for me) was an experience many, many years ago when I spoke at a conference that my employer put on for one our retail clients when I worked for a Workers’ Compensation Carrier.

It was a large group of managers for one of our retail clients (a national group) that looked like their souls had been sucked out of their bodies (please know I have nothing against who works in retail, this group of conference attendees were just very lifeless, they could have been in any industry). Also as you could imagine, managing work related injuries is not the most exciting all day conference topic!

During the conference, I watched one presenter after the other painfully struggle through their presentation with a highly “unengaged” and bored audience.

When it was my turn, I figured the crowd/audience could not dislike me anymore than they obviously already disliked the previous presenters, so what the heck – I was going to have fun.

So when I got up to the podium, I had an improvisational moment and I took the microphone off the podium stand and started walking through the crowd with it. I did my presentation as if I was performing a nite-club act: Walking through the crowd, speaking directly to audience members and being very animated.

Shockingly I got the first round of audible strong applause for the day! I even saw some actual smiles in the crowd (like their souls had briefly returned to their bodies!)

After that I had no fear of public speaking. Ultimately if the audience hates me, they hate me (but I always secretly know they are cheering for me – my insanity is so delicious!)


A follow up to the post Additional Conversations – Completed , one of my blogging buddies asked me what was behind the nameAdditional Conversations”. This made me realize I better go write the Artist Statement.

I’ve posted about this piece on the Improvisational Textiles blog and if you are curious on the story behind the piece, here is the link: Additional Conversations.

(Note I do need to take the piece outside in the right light and take an even better photo – I am just being lazy as I already hung it up in the Living Room!)

46 thoughts on “Speaking Engagement”

  1. Go You!! I think you are right ~ in that sort of environment people are very supportive, and wanting you to succeed. Which is sounds like you did really well. It helps to be passionate about your subject. And in your library too…..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What fun to read about your take on speaking in public and how you put life into your presentation in spite of it being a less than exciting topic to a captive audience. Way to go! Speaking about our love of quilting is a real thrill, and I’m sure your audience was hanging on your enthusiastic words. About three years ago I was the speaker to a quarterly meeting of Gulf States Quilting Association and they had the wrong cord and my PowerPoint slides were a moot point. Luckily, I had enough real quilts to show and it went okay. Last week I was giving a program for a friend’s luncheon club on my trip to Ireland (with LOTS of pictures), and again had a PowerPoint failure. No beautiful quilts to save me! I tap danced through the little Irish history I knew and made the best of it. I still love to present programs but know I have to be ready with Plan B!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh no a PowerPoint disaster but it sounds like you recovered well from it! I bet real quilts were pretty exciting for them over the missed slides 🙂
      Good recover on the Ireland trip presentation and maybe you need to bring your own supply of projector cords to events 🙂


  3. Good for you! I enjoy public speaking and I think you’re right, the audience WANTS you to be good. Certainly they don’t hope you’re terrible, because they have to sit there either way.

    I read the comment from Martha Ginn about computer/PowerPoint failures. It’s always a possibility, even if you bring your own equipment including cords. The best bet is, assume it could happen and have at least a few thoughts about what to do if it does. I’ve had *issues* at a couple of my presentations, too. At one the computer froze most of the way through. Fortunately I knew the subject so well it didn’t matter. And I did have quilts to show, so it was an easy transition. Also when I taught at the university there were occasional equipment failures, or laryngitis, or other problems. Or fire alarms, or guide dog having epileptic seizure during class, or … You do the best you can and move on. I guess the advice is “don’t freak out.” 🙂

    So yay you! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Melanie! I think laryngitis or a guide dog having an epileptic seizure during the presentation would have thrown me off my game! Thanks for sharing your experiences and I just know I would enjoy sitting in one of your presentations (and I would act like my soul was in my body, ha!) 🙂

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  4. Glad it went well, sounds an interesting talk. I can’t say I enjoy public speaking, but I’ve been asked to do a talk on ‘My journey in Quilting’ in November at my Embroiderers Guild, so I think I’ll be taking lots of quilts including ones I’ve given to friends.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds like a wonderful topic/talk for your group! Yes lots of visual aids is a great way to keep the audience engaged and you know they will all be cheering you on 🙂


  5. Yay! I’m glad your presentation went so well… And those are great tips for public speaking, too! As someone who worked in retail for a looong time, and had to attend many soul-sucking after hours training courses, I know I would have been delighted by anyone who changed up the formula the way you did that time! Also – I can see why you like your library so much… What a lovely, friendly-looking building that is!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You weren’t sitting in that audience of retail managers were you? Ha! No you likely were in primary school then (this was like the late 1990s and I was a but wee corporate pup myself). Our libraries are beautiful here! Thanks for your comments 🙂


  6. Great story on how you engaged the audience at your conference! AND I am so jealous that you got to speak at the library…I also have Library Love…it’s my happy place (comes right after my sewing room). I would have been there cheering you on…I seriously doubt that anyone was bored!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congratulations on your presentation. I would love to sit in on one of your quilt presentations!
    You seem to know the main rules of presenting: Know a and Engage your audience; keep the Power Point simple and as a backdrop; and have fun.
    As an educator, my kids were the best audience. Sometimes, the best made lesson plans would be received by the sound of crickets…so I would read the crowd and go from there. I had a 15 minute rule…present, student involvement, check and review or reteach, and then student would report what they learned. I often presented at teacher workshops and conferences…TEACHERS ARE THE WORST AUDIENCE! So, I followed the same 15 minute rule when presenting to teachers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so right about “the best laid plans…”. You really just need a framework (and to know your material) and then read the audience and pay attention to their vibe (or the lack of vibe as in the case of the retail managers!).
      I could see teachers being terrible audience members – ha! Maybe they want to get up there and train the material themselves! I like your 15 minute rule – that is good! I am going to keep that in mind!


  8. I learned so much from reading your post. I’ve made many of those “death by Power Point” presentations. I, too, have done professional speaking. Only I spoke to child care workers, child development specialists, and parents so I would break out in kids’ songs or do finger plays. They thought it was hilarious. But when it’s 7 in the evening and they’ve worked with kids all day, the last thing they want to do is sit and listen to someone tell them how children develop. Great post!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wish I was in your guild and could have been at your presentation! It sounds so engaging. I think you found the secret for not putting the audience to sleep, be engaging and interact and they will and do want you to succeed! 😊🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bah! My only public speaking event only had an audience of two….which was far more awkward for me than a group of people would have been (which I had prepared for with a big giveaway and questions and everything, sighhhhh). And hey I didn’t know you were a fellow Oregonian! I love the Sisters area…my husband loves the bakery’s donuts 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am so glad to read about your library presentation success! 🙂 I’m sure it was a wonderful presentation, and circulating some books during is also a great idea. Good to know, too, that you’ve managed to tame the stage-fright beast. That is no small feat! I can see how imagining a non-hostile/friendly audience that is rooting for you helps a great deal (and I think it is not delusional at all. Most people want to benefit from a presentation somehow… it’s their time, too, right?). I will have to remember this very useful idea the next time I’m called to present!

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